David Wagner stepped down as Winder-Barrow High School’s football coach Friday after going 3-37 during his four seasons directing the Bulldogg program.
WBHS went winless in Wagner’s first two seasons before defeating Cedar Shoals in 2012. The Bulldoggs opened and closed the 2013 season with close wins against Jackson County, a Class AAA school, and rival Apalachee, who went winless this fall.
Wagner arrived at WBHS after a successful stint as defensive coordinator with the AHS Wildcats. Wagner was defensive coordinator during the team’s undefeated regular season in 2009 in which AHS won a region title and advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
“It was a culmination of things,” Wagner said on his decision. “It was not one thing that made me come to this decision. After conversations with the administration and seeing where the program is, I decided it was the best time for me personally and professionally to move on.”
While saying there is “always a desire to stay,” Wagner said he had to look at all the variables involved.
“Coaching high school sports there is a personal aspect because of the relationships you build,” Wagner said. “However, there is also a professional part of it which says this is a job. In the end, you have to weigh what’s best for the program, school and yourself.”
Clearly, Wagner would like to continue coaching football, as soon as the 2014 season, whether it is as a defensive coordinator or perhaps as a head coach.
“One of my first loves is coordinating defense,” Wagner said. “I’m not one of those who has to be a head coach. I enjoy many aspects of the game. It’s early at this point. I want to enjoy the next month and hope to line up something after the first of the year.”
Wagner met with his players Friday to inform them about the change.
WBHS principal Al Darby, who will coordinate the search for a new coach along with athletic director Rob McFerrin, said he has already received inquiries from several coaches about the position.
“The sooner we can hire someone the better, but the timeline will be by the end of January or sometime February so we will have a new coach in place by spring practice,” Darby said.
McFerrin will lead the search and conduct background checks, although Darby will be involved with the process.
“We have an athletic director in place for a reason,” the WBHS principal said. “I will let him take the lead on this. He will make a recommendation to me, although I will assist in the process.”
Darby said in a hiring process such as this, there is a set protocol that has to be followed as dictated by the school system.
The WBHS principal said it is possible a panel could be formed to help with the search.
A candidate with previous head coaching experience is someone WBHS officials hope to attract.
“In our situation, experience will benefit us,” Darby said. “It’s going to be difficult for a program like ours to recruit some of the big names out there. The challenges we’ve faced the last 6-10 years will make it tough.”
The principal thanked Wagner for his work during the past four years.
“We could not have asked for a better person in terms of character and leadership for what he gave us during those seasons,” Darby said. “His work ethic was tremendous and he cared about our kids. That is important to me. This is a business and while we came to an agreement that it would be best for a change, our prayers and thoughts are with him and his family on their next endeavor. We feel very strongly that Coach Wagner will find a new place soon.”
WBHS will continue competing in Region 8-AAAAA for the next two years, just missing the cutoff for moving up in classification.
As a program, the Bulldoggs have not had a winning season dating back to 2003’s 8-3 campaign. The team has also not been to the postseason since that time.